I’ve been contemplating the efficacy of facebook for a church (or other organization). I’d like to take some time this new year to reflect on what seems to work and what doesn’t.
What you see above doesn’t work. It gives information, you’re right. It shows what we were doing, at the time, certainly. There is nothing wrong with sharing information and announcements on facebook, but that can’t be the totality of it…in fact i’m not convinced that facebook is even particularly good at working like a calendar or bulletin, but I think there are ways to do that…I’ll get to that in another post. What I want to say today: facebook is meant to connect with people on a relational level. There should seldom be a post that doesn’t share a photo, video or link to an interesting story.
But, just because you have a link or a photo doesn’t mean its good. Some churches augment their ‘announcement feed’ with links to denominational news stories or, worse yet, stock photos**. If that is the extent of what we do, then we are doomed.
I want to suggest that developing a successful church facebook page comes with continually developing original content. There is no other way to do it effectively…
Photos: Pick up a digital camera or the nearest smart phone and take photos. Not blurry snapshots and not all of them can be from the back of the room. Get in close to people and show happy expressions. OH, and please, get a variety of people.
Get Permission: It should go without saying, but please take the time to ask permission from adults to use their photos and make a permission slip for photo an video a part of your sunday school registration so that you can easily know which parents are cool with you using their children’s photos and which ones don’t. Don’t post photos where children’s faces are clearly visible without permission (the exception, for me, is public performances where the photo or video is of a large group from a distance)!
Video: It can be as simple as an iphone or as complicated as a professional camcorder, but there are middle-of-the-road options for most churches. Get a digital camcorder with an external mic plug (there are some inexpensive ones). With an adapter or two from radio shack you can plug the church microphones into your camera and have decent sound if you do an interview. But, again, don’t just put up anything. Just because it is video, doesn’t mean it is good. Just panning across a crowd will cause yawns to form and people will not click your next video. Sure, pan the crowd and get videos from behind children and adults so that you have some b-roll that you can use without faces…but get some close up videos and pull people out of the room and ask them to tell what is happening; why they chose to come; and what they like about the event / the church. Remember, we are not reporting just WHAT happened, but who and how it makes us feel. and then… most computers have a basic video editing program. open it up and put together a short video. For the most part (for shots around the church or short interviews): don’t go over 2-3 minutes, in fact, 30 seconds – 1 minute will give you the best results in my experience.
Recommendations: There is a very under-used section on facebook pages called recommendations. For a company it is used for customers to ‘recommend’ the company or the product they sell: “I love [restaurant]’s food because it makes me think of home,” “Everytime I walk into this [business] it makes me think of the day I got engaged.” Companies use this section to connect. Churches need to start asking people to think about what they love about the church and post it there. It is called evangelism and this is a very simple yet powerful way to share our feelings about our church in a visible way. Oh, and don’t be afraid to remove unhelpful recommendations or comments that get put there… and seek out a variety of voices for this section: get your youth and college students involved here.
Insights: There are a million tutorials for facebook and the most accurate are right in the facebook help section… spend some time learning about insights. They are powerful tools that help you understand how your page is being used. Very basically, the more that people like, share and comment about a post or recommendation…the more others are going to see your church and know that your organization is an active force in the community (that is “Reach”)
Comment, Share, and LIKE: Talk with your church staff or leaders to set an expectation that they would spend some time on the page and encourage them to regularly like, comment and share posts. Now, here is the thing: discourage people from liking everything. Why? My friends are likely to stop paying attention if something from my church comes up on their feed 5 times a day from me, but when staff and church leaders see something that actually connects with them – they should be sharing it. When a person sees a variety of postings from your church that many of their facebook friends are connecting with, they may actually pay attention!
Oh, and if you are the page admin, don’t be afraid to share items to other people’s timelines. For instance, when we had a Cantata I put up a video ‘as the church’ and then shared it to the choir director’s timeline. If it is an item that especially needs attention, “Like” it yourself or comment on it (as yourself, not the page).
Voice: I can not stress this one enough… Use the right voice on facebook pages! There is a blue bar at the very top of the page, if you are the admin. It will look something like this:
For most posts for major events, youtube videos, etc. I make sure that I am posting, commenting and like as “Normal First UMC,” but the staff and I have been trying to upload some photos short video clips and comments using our own voices… (just go to the blue bar and click to change to your own “voice”). In the new facebook timeline they appear in a seperate section that gets less notice on the page, but they don’t have to stay there! Go to the “recent posts by others” click on “see more” and you’ll see all the personal posts that have gone up. Click on the X. It doesn’t delete it (although you could) but it gives you options and one of those options is “allow on page.” That moves the post by someone else to the main part of the page. It gives a more personal face to the page and to the church.
Hiding: One last thing, this season we did advent devotional. Each day I wanted to put up the most recent devotional as a note, but, I didn’t want 31 notes clogging up the page and making it look…well…boring. So I put up the next day’s note each evening and “hid” yesterday’s note. The note wasn’t deleted and people could still comment on them and they were still showing up in people’s feeds, but there weren’t 31 notes in a row on the timeline by now, either. This is critical to understand: what you see on your page timeline is not the totality of your church’s presence. Facebook is a complicated mix of timeline, notifications, newsfeeds and ads. Posts exist even when they are hidden from your timeline and old items can be made new, simply by having people go back and like them (or re-sharing an old photo or video).
A successful page will have annoucements (although usually in the form of “events”), sure, but will have a focus on relationship building and content that is personal (not stock photos or, too often, denomination news links). If you’d like to see some of things I’m talking about in action, feel free to stop by www.facebook.com/normalfirst. Our page is far from perfect, but we are moving in the right direction. I think that the staff are making great strides in how we take our church online and aim to ‘connect’ not just inform.
I hope your new year on facebook will be fruitful for you and your church!
**Hey, we occasionally use stock photos…but I suggest there is usually something better to use, it just takes more effort.